Welcome to Call Centre Guru!

January 2nd, 2010


Hi,  I am pleased to share my Call Centre expertize with you.  I have been working in Call Centres for more than 15 years and I have been lucky enough to work in many different fields within Call Centres.  From agent on the phone to Forecasting and Planning, to management, Call Recording, speaker to conferences…

On a weekly basis, I will post a note on a Call Centre related topic.  Feel free to add your comments and questions.

Call Centre Guru

Luc Denis

NICE Interactions 2013

April 24th, 2013


As promised, here are the links to the pdf files!






Basics steps to create call centre schedules

January 4th, 2012

In order to accurately calculate the FTE requirements, interval data must be identified for the number of calls answered by the specified group of agents planned within the schedule.  You would need to know the call volume and the AHT, per interval.  To do so, you would use the historical data available.  Ultimately, if shrinkage data is also available per interval, this would be useful in obtaining requirements from a broader perspective..  this aspect we will discuss later.

Depending on your phone system setup or capacity, historical data by interval may not be available for more than 30 to 60 days.  I would therefore recommend that you test your system, and archive if needed, in a tabulator.  Most likely, you will want to create your schedules for the upcoming few weeks.  Depending on your call centre model, the last 4-6 weeks may be very similar to the next 4-6 weeks.  If not, you may want to verify the model of those weeks from previous year(s).  Again, the data availability is key…

Depending on the type of schedules you are creating, classic 5 X 8 schedules on 5-day week vs 4 X 10 on a 7-day week, you may want to gather your interval data in different ways.

For a classic 5-day week, where agents always have the same schedule, you would want to create your model on an average day. To do so, you would calculate the average call volume per interval, and a weighted average for the AHT.

For a 7-day week, where agents have different scheduled start times, you would want to create your model for each day of the week.  This is more time consuming, yet necessary per accuracy of your calculations.

Now that you have your model in place, you would need to calculate the FTE requirements per interval.  To do so, you should use your WFM system, or Erlang C for Excel, as an example.  To find FTE requirements, Erlang C would use the call volume and AHT of the interval, the TSF objective, and the TSF threshold.

From this FTE requirement, you would then need to apply your shrinkage.   Please note, your historical shrinkage may be (is) different per interval.  This being said, you may want to apply your average shrinkage to each interval.  For example, if you have for the same period a 30% shrinkage, you would multiply the FTE requirement by 1.3.  Please note, I think you should be careful with opening and closing FTE requirements.  For example, let’s take an example where you have 3 agents opening your call centre at 8am.  If one of those noted agents are on vacation the following  week, would you be proactive and replace the agent with another ?  If so, I would not apply the same shrinkage percentage to this interval.

From this FTE requirement, with shrinkage, you would then build schedules based on the number of agents you have in this group.  Please note, I will be posting  on the different types of schedules in the near future.

If you have more agents/schedules than required, you should consider confirming any pending time off waitlists for the specified period. Therefore, allowing an increased availability to confirm time off requests, encouraging more time for off the phone activities/trainings etc.

If you have less agents/schedules than required, your business would then need to make a decision:  Are you staffing at the bare minimum during some intervals, or are you averaging the gap throughout the day?

Once you have the schedules created, you would then have the agents bid on the schedule patterns accordingly.  There are different types of bidding processes:  Based either on seniority, rotating schedules, performance etc… We may also encounter a different mix of each.  The pros and cons of each process will be highlighted in a future post… stay tuned.

Forecasting and Planning for Call Centres

October 8th, 2010

I was talking about Forecasting and Planning for Call Centres with a gentleman on the plane earlier this week.  He didn`t understand why his Call Centre is putting so much time and effort for poor results.  After going over their daily results with him, it was clear I needed to post on the topic.  Forecasting and Planning won`t bring the same results every day.

First, let’s start with the fact that the Call Centre management team wants to staff at the minimum required to achieve service levels.   The required service levels good be daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

Most of our Call Centres have a weekly or monthly target.  The Forecasting and Planning would be based on this monthly (yes, you can read “average”) SLA.  It is not optimal for each day or each interval.

Why?  Costs.  Trying to hit 80% TSF each day requires more FTEs, time, effort, employee dissatisfaction, etc  than trying to achieve 80% TSF for the month.

Service Level or TSF calculation… what about abandoned calls?

August 18th, 2010

I often get the same question on how we should calculate the Service Level or TSF.  Should we put the abandoned calls in the equation or not?

To me, the answer is simple:  Yes you should.

The reasoning behind is simple.  If you would have had an available agent at that specific time the call was abandoned, you would have answered the call.  Then, you would have the “sale” attached to it, the AHT, etc.

Unless your Call Centre is driven by very specific burst of calls, for example, a contest to win concert tickets where callers call non-stop until they are answered, the callers more often do not call back within the same 30 minutes.

Weird idea… what about changing the ACD coding?

May 12th, 2010

I was talking with a Call Centre Manager about his TSF target.  The Call Centre is a public Call Centre following Federal laws around TSF target.  They need to achieve a TSF of 80/20/80.  80% of the calls answered in 20 seconds 80% of the time, which means in 80% of the intervals of the day.  They are having a hard time achieving their TSF target.

Then I had a weird idea.  This Federal TSF target, on what type of ACD coding is this in relation with?  We all know the core ACD is programmed to route the oldest waiting call to the next available agent, unless another priority is coming in the mix.  What about an ACD code where, depending on the TSF of the interval, the oldest waiting call is not routed to an available agent?  The oldest waiting call is already lost (for the 80/20), so let’s route a call that waited 19 seconds to the agent?

I know, this is not good Customer Service for the oldest call waiting customer, but we have to agree that the oldest call waiting customer wouldn’t know.  Not even the agents or the Team Leaders.  This “solution” wouldn’t work if there are many calls waiting, for many minutes.  But here and there, this might work.

I wonder if there are some Call Centres with such ACD coding…

How to select your Call Centre Team Leaders?

May 6th, 2010

In the Call Centre agents’ world, a new Team Leader position posting is something rare and wanted.  Also, on most of the postings I have seen in my career, I read the note: “Strong internal candidate”.

I agree, promoting individuals from within your company is a great idea to keep the employees happy and reduce attrition.  Often I have seen the best agent on the floor become the next Team Leader.    Then, the best Team Leader become the next Manager.

At the same time, I have seen this process fail.  Especially in Call Centres where the Call Centre content was very specific.  To work in this type of Call Centre, for example deep IT support, you need to have specific training.  In this case, the best agent might not have the skills and knowledge to manage a team.  Their core training was on IT, not management.

This knowledge gap can often be seen when new corporate goals are broadcast to the Call Centre.  For example, how can we transform a high level goal into a day-to-day agent target?  Also, how to motivate, evaluate and adjust the day-to-day plan based on current results? etc.

Managing a team is not an easy task.  This is why, we often see a new Team Leader from another company joining the Call Centre, with management experience.

Why is it so hard to speak to a real agent?

April 21st, 2010

I would simply start with the fact that the technology behind self-service support is easy to put in place and appreciated by many users.

For this discussion, let’s take a mobile phone provider’s call centre.  When you call their customer service 1-800 number, you get prompted for your 10-digit phone number.

When the phone number is keyed in, a link is done between the mobile company databases (billing, options, etc) to the phone system also known as the IVR. (Interactive Voice Response).  From your phone you can verify your account balance, pay your invoice, add options, etc.

Another self-service medium would be the mobile’s company web site.  From the web site, you can login and access your account information and make changes to your account.

We need to understand that for the mobile company to offer self-service  is cheaper than having real agents answer the calls and often provide the same information as the IVR or the web site.  With self-service, the mobile company doesn’t have to worry about operating hours (the web site and IVR are available 24/7) and they don’t need to worry about the AHT.

The self-service has many benefits, but also a major down side.  Having your customer live on the phone is a business opportunity and should be used as an opportunity.  Your agents need to understand that.

This is one of the reasons why many call centres split their phone queues based on the type of customer.   For example, in the IVR, based on the mobile phone number entered, a decisions is taken based on the monthly charges on the account.  Some call centres would route the call directly to an agent if the customer is spending more than 500$ for example.

Tip:  You want to speak with a live agent as soon as possible?  Do not enter anything in the IVR.  Not even language selection.  In that case, many call centres route the call directly to a live agent based on the regional laws around customer service to provide service to houses with old rotary phones…

One call at a time

March 31st, 2010

We all have seen a “regular” call peak for 1 hour around 2pm.  To get rid of the calls from the phone queue, many agents trick their AHT.  They do the minimum needed with the customer, put the file on the side and take another call. (And eventually finish the files at a later time)  In fact, this tricky method is emptying the phone queue faster, but at what cost?

The solution for this call peak is to properly staff at 2pm.  To be able to staff properly we need an accurate forecast on call volume and AHT for the 2pm interval.  If historically the AHT has been tricked to empty the phone queue, the forecast will be wrong and the proper staffing will not be in place.  To avoid all of this, we need to make sure all the agents are answering the calls the same way they do any other time of day.  This will require a change in the Call Centre behavior, which is not easy.

This behavior will have many benefits.

  • One big objective for a Call Centre is to avoid call backs (incoming or outgoing) and try to complete the activity with the customer with 1 call.   By not rushing the call, there is a greater chance to be able to complete the activity with one call.
  • The customer service (quality) should be better when the agent is not rushing the caller.  For the customers, they have been waiting in the queue for a while.  There might be dozen more waiting but for the customer you have on-line, only this call counts.  Having your customer on the phone with you is a business opportunity.  Make sure you get the best out of it.

What if?

March 24th, 2010

Let’s take a look at the basic relation between some Call Centre metrics.  Please refer the Call Centre lingo post for acronyms and find the answers below.

Scenario 1:

The call volume is stable and the AHT decreases.  What would be the impact on the Service Level?

Scenario 2:

The call volume is stable and the ASA decreases.  What would be the impact on the Service Level?

Scenario 3:

The call volume is stable and the occupancy increases.  What would be the impact on the Service Level?

Scenario 4:

The ATT is stable and the ACW increases.  What would be the impact on the AHT?


Scenario 1:

The Service Level would increase since your agents would spend less time working on files, which means they would be more available to take calls.

Scenario 2:

The Service Level would increase since it the speed of answer is decreasing.

Scenario 3:

The Service Level would decrease since your agents would spend more time working on files, which means they would be less available to take calls.

Scenario 4:

The AHT would increase since AHT = ATT + ACW.

Call Centre lingo

March 3rd, 2010

A new agent or Team Leader in your Call Centre might get lost with all the lingo we use.  Here is a quick summary of them.

ASA:  Average Speed of Answer.  Hopefully in seconds, the average time it took for the period to get answered.

TSF:  Telephone Service Factor.  Percentage of calls answered within the threshold defined by the Call Centre.

ATT:  Average Talk Time.  In seconds, the time the agent was on the phone with the customer.

ACW:  After Call Work.  In seconds, the time the agent spent finishing the file of the previous caller, without the caller on the phone.

AHT:  Average Handle Time.  In seconds, the average time it took to handle the call.  From the time the agent is talking to the customer to the time he finished working on the file.   (ATT + ACW)

Occupancy: Percentage of time the agent was busy on the phone.  Included Talk Time, ACW, etc.  Often, the calculation used is: Total time – Available time.

Call Volume:  Number of calls.

Interval: Period of time of a day.  Most Call Centres use 30 minutes increments.

Schedule Adherence: Percentage of time the agent followed is planned schedule.